On Kratzer’s canonical account, modal expressions (like “might” and “must”) are represented semantically as quantifiers over possibilities. Such expressions are themselves neutral; they make a single contribution to determining the propositions expressed across a wide range of uses. What modulates the modality of the proposition expressed—as bouletic, epistemic, deontic, etc.—is context.2 This ain’t the canon for nothing. Its power lies in its ability to figure in a simple and highly unified explanation of a fairly wide range of language use. Recently, (...) though, the canon’s neat story has come under attack. The challenge cases involve the epistemic use of a modal sentence for which no single resolution of the contextual parameter appears capable of accommodating all our intuitions.3 According to these revisionaries, such cases show that the canonical story needs to be amended in some way that makes multiple bodies of information relevant to the assessment of such statements. Here I show that how the right canonical, flexibly contextualist account of modals can accommodate the full range of challenge cases. The key will be to extend Kratzer’s formal semantic account with an account of how context selects values for a modal’s.. (shrink)
In this paper I will be concerned with the question as to whether expressivist theories of meaning can coherently be combined with deflationist theories of truth. After outlining what I take expressivism to be and what I take deflationism about truth to be, I’ll explain why I don’t take the general version of this question to be very hard, and why the answer is ‘yes’. Having settled that, I’ll move on to what I take to be a more pressing and (...) interesting version of the question, arising from a prima facie tension between deflationism about truth and the motivations underlying expressivism for what I take to be two of its most promising applications: to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals. Here I’ll argue that the challenge is substantive, but that there is no conceptual obstacle to its being met, provided that one’s expressivism takes the right form. (shrink)
Epistemic modals in consequent place of indicative conditionals give rise to apparent counterexamples to Modus Ponens and Modus Tollens. Familiar assumptions of fa- miliar truth conditional theories of modality facilitate a prima facie explanation—viz., that the target cases harbor epistemic modal equivocations. However, these explana- tions go too far. For they foster other predictions of equivocation in places where in fact there are no equivocations. It is argued here that the key to the solution is to drop the assumption (...) that modal claims are inherently relational (i.e., that they ex- press a logical relation between a prejacent and a premise-set) in favor of a view that treats them as inherently quantificational. In particular it is suggested that modals are mass noun descriptions of information. We demonstrate how this approach unlocks the equivocation problem. (shrink)
In “Epistemic Modals,” Seth Yalcin argues that what explains the deficiency of sentences containing epistemic modals of the form ‘p and it might be that not-p’ is that sentences of this sort are strictly contradictory, and thus are not instances of a Moore-paradox as has been previous suggested. Benjamin Schnieder, however, argues in his Yalcin’s explanation of these sentences’ deficiency turns out to be insufficiently general, as it cannot account for less complex but still defective sentences, such as (...) ‘Suppose it might be raining.’ Consequently, Schnieder proposes his own, expressivist treatment of epistemic modals which he thinks can explain the deficiency of both the original sentence type as well as more complex cases of embedded sentences containing epistemic modals. In this study, I argue that although Schnieder is right to draw our attention to the explanatory failure of Yalcin’s account, we aren’t forced to adopt Schnieder’s expressivist account of epistemic modals. I defend instead a contextualist-friendly alternative which explains the deficiencies of all the relevant sentence types, while avoiding both the defects of Yalcin’s account and the intuitive costs of expressivism. (shrink)
Recently, Yalcin (Epistemic modals. Mind, 116 , 983–1026, 2007) put forward a novel account of epistemic modals. It is based on the observation that sentences of the form ‘ & Might ’ do not embed under ‘suppose’ and ‘if’. Yalcin concludes that such sentences must be contradictory and develops a notion of informational consequence which validates this idea. I will show that informational consequence is inadequate as an account of the logic of epistemic modals: it cannot deal (...) with reasoning from uncertain premises. Finally, I offer an alternative way of explaining the relevant linguistic data. (shrink)
This paper presents and discusses a range of counterexamples to the common view that quantifiers cannot take scope over epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for ‘force modifier’ theories of epistemic modals. Some of the counterexamples raise problems for Robert Stalnaker’s theory of counterfactuals, according to which a special kind of epistemic modal must be able to scope over a whole counterfactual. Finally, some of the counterexamples suggest that David Lewis must countenance ‘would’ counterfactuals in which (...) a covert ‘would’ scopes over the whole consequent of the counterfactual, including an overt ‘might.’. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that epistemic modals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemic modals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemic modals.
Kolodny and MacFarlane have made a pioneering contribution to our understanding of how the interpretation of deontic modals can be sensitive to evidence and information. But integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard Kratzerian framework for modals suggests ways of capturing the relevant data without treating deontic modals as “informational modals” in their sense. I show that though one such way of capturing the data within the standard semantics fails, an alternative does not. Nevertheless I (...) argue that we have good reasons to adopt an information-sensitive semantics of the general type Kolodny and MacFarlane describe. Contrary to the standard semantics, relative deontic value between possibilities sometimes depends on which possibilities are live. I develop an ordering semantics for deontic modals that captures this point and addresses various complications introduced by integrating the discussion of information-sensitivity into the standard semantic framework. By attending to these complexities, we can also illuminate various roles that information and evidence play in logical arguments, discourse, and deliberation. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore semantics for comparative epistemic modals that avoid the entailment problems shown to result from Kratzer’s (1991) semantics by Yalcin (2006, 2009, 2010). In contrast to the alternative semantics presented by Yalcin and Lassiter (2010, 2011), based on finitely additive probability measures, we introduce semantics based on qualitatively additive measures, as well as semantics based on purely qualitative orderings, including orderings on propositions derived from orderings on worlds in the tradition of Kratzer (1991). All of (...) these semantics avoid the entailment problems that result from Kratzer’s semantics. Our discussion focuses on methodological issues concerning the choice between different semantics. (shrink)
Modals in St’át’imcets (Lillooet Salish) show two differences from their counterparts in English. First, they have variable quantificational force, systematically allowing both possibility and necessity interpretations; and second, they lexically restrict the conversational background, distinguishing for example between deontic and (several kinds of) epistemic modality. We provide an analysis of the St’át’imcets modals according to which they are akin to specific indefinites in the nominal domain. They introduce choice function variables which select a subset of the accessible worlds. (...) Following Klinedinst, we assume distributivity over the resulting set of worlds. St’át’imcets modals thus receive a uniform interpretation as (distributive) pluralities. The appearance of variability in modal force arises because the choice function can select a larger or smaller subset of accessible worlds. Finally, we discuss the implications of our analysis for the investigation of modal systems in other languages. (shrink)
I scrutinize the relationship between the way emotions give rise to modal judgement and the metaphysical necessity we ascribe to the latter. While moral concepts are often described as response-dependent, I propose to analyse them as response-enabled or grokking. I discuss how grokkingness is embedded in the emotional mechanisms that provoke imaginative resistance; how it shapes our manifest image of the world and the place of morality in it; the latter’s deep contingency as contrasted to its metaphysical necessity; and what (...) is essential to a moral outlook notwithstanding deep contingency. (shrink)
According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-friendly readings might plausibly (...) get selected in the challenge cases. (shrink)
The article proposes an analysis of imperatives and possibility and necessity statements that (i) explains their differences with respect to the licensing of free choice any and (ii) accounts for the related phenomena of free choice disjunction in imperatives, permissions, and statements. Any and or are analyzed as operators introducing sets of alternative propositions. Free choice licensing operators are treated as quantifiers over these sets. In this way their interpretation can be sensitive to the alternatives any and or introduce in (...) their scope. (shrink)
By “epistemic modals,” I mean epistemic uses of modal words: adverbs like “necessarily,” “possibly,” and “probably,” adjectives like “necessary,” “possible,” and “probable,” and auxiliaries like “might,” “may,” “must,” and “could.” It is hard to say exactly what makes a word modal, or what makes a use of a modal epistemic, without begging the questions that will be our concern below, but some examples should get the idea across. If I say “Goldbach’s conjecture might be true, and it might be (...) false,” I am not endorsing the Cartesian view that God could have made the truths of arithmetic come out differently. I make the claim not because I believe in the metaphysical contingency of mathematics, but because I know that Goldbach’s conjecture has not yet been proved or refuted. Similarly, if I say “Joe can’t be running,” I am not saying that Joe’s constitution prohibits him from running, or that Joe is essentially a non-runner, or that Joe isn’t allowed to run. My basis for making the claim may be nothing more than that I see Joe’s running shoes hanging on a hook. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, …’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, …’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals, according to which they express propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or (...) group. This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework, using broadly Gricean resources. (shrink)
I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions (...) of this kind, and how to understand what we'd be up to in our use of sentences like ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', if they have such peculiar truth conditions. After providing a very quick argument to motivate a relativist view of epistemic modals, I bring out and attempt to resolve this problem in making sense of the role of assertions with relativist truth conditions. Solving this problem should be helpful in two ways: first, it eliminates an apparently forceful objection to relativism, and second, spelling out the relativist account of assertion and communication will help to make clear just what the relativist position is, exactly, and why it's interesting. (shrink)
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemic modals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemic modals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemic modals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemic modals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing epistemic modals?
A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic modals. (...) If we want to respect these evaluations, our best option is a relativist theory of epistemic modals. On a relativist theory, an utterance of a might be F can be true relative to one context of evaluation and false relative to another. We argue that such a theory does better than any rival approach at capturing all the behaviour of epistemic modals. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to present an explanation for the impact of normative considerations on people’s assessment of certain seemingly purely descriptive matters. The explanation is based on two main claims. First, a large category of expressions are tacitly modal: they are contextually equivalent to modal proxies. Second, the interpretation of predominantly circumstantial or teleological modals is subject to certain constraints which make certain possibilities salient at the expense of others.
In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we offer (...) an explanation of why certain locutions invite insensitive assessments, focusing primarily on ’tasty’ and ’might’. We spell out some reasons why felicitous insensitive assessments are puzzling and argue briefly that recent attempts to accommodate such assessments (including attempts by John MacFarlane, Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies) all fail to provide more than hints at a solution to the puzzle. In the main part of the paper, we develop an account of felicitous insensitive assessments by identifying a number of pragmatic factors that influence the felicity of assessments. Before closing, we argue that the role of these factors extend beyond cases considered in the debate about assessor-relativism and fit comfortably with standard contextualist analyses of the relevant locutions. (shrink)
Predicates of personal taste (fun, tasty) and epistemic modals (might, must) share a similar analytical difficulty in determining whose taste or knowledge is being expressed. Accordingly, they have parallel behavior in attitude reports and in a certain kind of disagreement. On the other hand, they differ in how freely they can be linked to a contextually salient individual, with epistemic modals being much more restricted in this respect. I propose an account of both classes using Lasersohn’s (Linguistics and (...) Philosophy 28: 643–686, 2005) “judge” parameter, at the same time arguing for crucial changes to Lasersohn’s view in order to allow the extension to epistemic modals and address empirical problems faced by his account. (shrink)
The class of true modal verbs in English is usually understood to include auxiliary verbs conveying possibility and necessity (including predictive future) that lack non-finite morphological forms; from a syntactic perspective, these verbs occur only in finite clauses (as opposed to infinitives or gerunds). Nevertheless the true modals do not inflect for third-person singular agreement, unlike normal present-tense verbs. When they are negated, true modals always precede the negative particle not, regardless of their understood scope relative to negation, (...) and never give rise to do-support. (shrink)
A primary challenge from the relativist to the contextualist about epistemic modals is to explain eavesdropping data—i.e., why the eavesdropper is inclined to judge the speaker as having uttered an epistemic modal falsehood (when she is so inclined), even though the speaker’s utterance is true according to reasonable contextualist truth conditions. The issue turns in large part on the strength and shape of the data, both of which are in dispute. One complaint is that an eavesdropper’s truth value judgments (...) fluctuate with variations of non- epistemic fact (even after the relevant epistemic/information states are determined). The project here is to strengthen and reframe this complaint in a debate-neutral way, and to show how a sober contextualism can uniformly accommodate it and the standard eavesdropping data. Along the way we reject John Hawthorne’s danger-theoretic explanation of these subtleties. (shrink)
In English, discourse reference to time involves grammatical tenses interpreted as temporal anaphors. Recently, it has been argued that conditionals involve modal discourse anaphora expressed by a parallel grammatical system of anaphoric modals. Based on evidence from Kalaallisut, this paper argues that temporal and modal anaphora can be just as precise in a language that does not have either grammatical category. Instead, temporal anaphora directly targets eventualities of verbs, without mediating tenses, while modal anaphora involves anaphoric moods and/or attitudinal (...) verbs. (shrink)
In a series of recent articles Angelika Kratzer has argued that the standard account of modality along Kripkean lines is inadequate in order to represent context-dependent modals. In particular she argues that the standard account is unable to deliver a non-trivial account of modality capable of overcoming inconsistencies of the underlying conversational background.
“Counterfactual” readings of might/could have were previously analyzed using metaphysical modal bases. This paper presents examples and scenarios where the assumptions of such a branching-time semantics are not met, because there are facts at the base world that preclude the complement of the modal becoming true. Additional arguments show that counterfactual readings are context dependent. These data motivate a semantics using a circumstantial (or factual) modal base, which refers to context-dependent facts about a world and time. The analysis is formulated (...) in a version of premise semantics for modality. (shrink)
Eventualities and worlds are analysed uniformly as schedules of certain descriptions of eventuality-types (reversing the reduction of eventuality-types to eventualities). The temporal interpretation of modals in Condoravdi 2002 is reformulated to bring out what it is about eventualities and worlds that is essential to the account. What is essential, it is claimed, can be recovered from schedules that may or may not include worlds.
Imperatives may be interpreted with many subvarieties of directive force, for example as orders, invitations, or pieces of advice. I argue that the range of meanings that imperatives can convey should be identiﬁed with the variety of interpretations that are possible for non-dynamic root modals (what I call ‘priority modals’), including deontic, bouletic, and teleological readings. This paper presents an analysis of the relationship between imperatives and priority modals in discourse which asserts that, just as declaratives contribute (...) to the Common Ground and thus provide information relevant to the interpretation of epistemic modals in subsequent discourse, imperatives contribute to another component of the discourse context, the addressee’s To-Do List, which serves as a contextual resource for the interpretation of priority modals. This analysis predicts that the interpretation of imperatives and modals in discourse is constrained in surprising ways; these predictions are borne out. (shrink)
A theory for the use of tense and perfect in English should do three things: 1. It should provide rules defining the phrase markers in which tense and perfect can occur; 2. It should specify what extralinguistic phenomena correlate with the occurrence of tense and perfect in the structures that underlie English sentences; 3. It should provide rules which are sensitive to these extralinguistic phenomena, and which place either +PAST or −PAST under tense nodes and either HAVE or f) under (...) perfect nodes, in such a way that the resulting surface realizations correctly match the conceptualizations which they are used to express. As regards point 1, a set of rules of the type used in the autonomous syntax tradition (cf. Culicover et ah 1977, Lapointe 1980) is adopted here, and it is assumed that syntactic structures are paired with functional structures (cf. Bresnan 1978) in such a way that any V1 node in a phrase marker is paired with a tenseless proposition. As regards point 2, it is argued that for every tenseless proposition referring to a state/ event n, the speaker can make a truth commitment to the effect that n holds true at a time T″ within a particular intensional domain (henceforth ID). It is argued that he does this by assigning two semantic tenses to that proposition on the basis of certain chronological orderings within that ID. These two semantic tenses will be called domain tenses. The two domain tenses are the Fn-tense and the Tn-tense. The notions Tn and F″ are defined as follows: Tn is the time where n is located in the chronology of the ID in which the domain tenses for the tenseless proposition referring to n are computed. Fn is the segment of time on which the speaker focuses his attention when committing himself to the truth of n at Tn in that ID. P″ is the present of that ID. The tense is defined in terms of the chronological order of F″ with respect to P″ , and the Tn -tense is defined in terms of the chronological order of Tn with respect to Fn . It is argued that a third semantic tense, called a domain-shift tense (henceforth DOSH tense) is relevant for the surface selection of tense and perfect. A DOSH tense is defined in terms of the relation between the present of an embedding ID and the present of an embedded ID. Tense-representation rules are provided which match the three semantic tenses referred to above correctly with two nodes (i.e. tense and perfect) in finite S structures, and with one node (i.e. perfect) in nonfinite V2 complements. The most complex examples of ‘sequence of tenses’ are covered by these tense-representation rules. Alleged exceptions to ‘sequence of tenses’ are dealt with. It is argued that in free indirect style, in counterfactual conditional statements, and also in children's games of pretend and in self-effacement strategies in conversational interaction (cf. Lodge 1979), the referent n of the tenseless proposition that is paired with a nonembedded clause is presented as true, not in the speaker/writer's primary ID, but in an embedded ID. The idiosyncrasies of the use of tense, perfect and modals in these nonembedded clauses are thus also to be attributed to domain-shift phenomena. (shrink)
Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are explored.
Imagine that Ann, asked to name her favorite treat, answers: 1. Licorice is tasty Imagine that Ben, having hidden some licorice in the cupboard, whispers to Ann: 2. There might be licorice in the cupboard. What if any role is played by perspective—whom the licorice is tasty to, whose evidence allows for licorice in the cupboard—in the semantics of such sentences?
Pragmatists recommend that in approaching a problematic concept in philosophy, we should begin by examining the role it plays in the practical, cognitive and linguistic lives of the creatures who use it. This paper stems from an interest in pragmatic accounts, in this sense, of the various modal notions we encounter in science. I propose that pragmatists about these notions should avail themselves of the vocabulary of theoretical models. This vocabulary brings to the foreground the issues of function, use and (...) role in practice, on which pragmatists want to focus; while downplaying the naive representationalism that pragmatists see as an impediment to good philosophy. I show how this framework may be used to delineate a kind of pragmatic perspectivalism about probability, and argue that the same template offers a promising way to make sense of the link between causation and manipulability. (shrink)
The status and respectability of alethic modality was always a point of contention and divergence between naturalism and empiricism. It poses no problems in principle for naturalism, since modal vocabulary is an integral part of all the candidate naturalistic base vocabularies. Fundamental physics is above all a language of laws; the special sciences distinguish between true and false counterfactual claims; and ordinary empirical talk is richly dispositional. By contrast, modality has been a stumbling-block for the empiricist tradition ever since Hume (...) forcefully formulated his epistemological and ultimately semantic objections to the concepts of law and necessary connection. (, Lecture , §). (shrink)
1 This paper has been presented at the workshop “Time and Modality: A Round Table on Tense, Mood, and Modality”, Paris, December 2005, at a CUNY linguistics colloquium in May 2006, and at the 6th Workshop on Formal Linguistics in Florian´opolis, Brazil, August 2006. We thank the audiences at those presentations, in particular Orin Percus, Tim Stowell, Marcel den Dikken, Anna Szabolcsi, Chris Warnasch, Roberta Pires de Oliveira, Renato Miguel Basso, and Ana M¨uller. We thank Noam Chomsky, Cleo Condoravdi, and (...) Irene Heim for very helpful conversations about this material. We thank Bridget Copley for sharing with us her recent manuscript “What Should Should.. (shrink)
I defend a contextualist account of bare epistemic modal claims against recent objections. I argue that in uttering a sentence of the form ‘It might be that p,’ a speaker is performing two speech acts. First, she is (directly) asserting that in view of the knowledge possessed by some relevant group, it might be that p. The content of this first speech act is accounted for by the contextualist view. But the speaker's utterance also generates an indirect speech act that (...) consists in a weak suggestive that p. Since this second speech act is typically the main point of a bare epistemic modal utterance, our (negative or positive) responses to the utterance actually target this second speech act. I show how this two-speech-act account can explain the data recently adduced against contextualism. (shrink)
We show in this paper that some expressions indicating source of evidence are part of propositional content and are best analyzed as special kind of epistemic modal. Our evidence comes from the Japanese evidential system. We consider six evidentials in Japanese, showing that they can be embedded in conditionals and under modals and that their properties with respect to modal subordination are similar to those of ordinary modals. We show that these facts are difficult for existing theories of (...) evidentials, which assign evidentials necessarily widest scope, to explain. We then provide an analysis using a logical system designed to account for evidential reasoning; this logic is the first developed system of probabilistic dynamic predicate logic. This analysis is shown to account for the data we provide that is problematic for other theories. (shrink)
This paper discusses the interaction of aspect and modality, and focuses on the puzzling implicative effect that arises when perfective aspect appears on certain modals: perfective somehow seems to force the proposition expressed by the complement of the modal to hold in the actual world, and not merely in some possible world. I show that this puzzling behavior, originally discussed in Bhatt (1999, Covert modality in non-finite contexts) for the ability modal, extends to all modal auxiliaries with a circumstantial (...) modal base (i.e., root modals ), while epistemic interpretations of the same modals are immune to the effect. I propose that implicative readings are contingent on the relative position of the modal w.r.t. aspect: when aspect scopes over the modal (as I argue is the case for root modals), it forces an actual event, thereby yielding an implicative reading. When a modal element scopes over aspect, no actual event is forced. This happens (i) with epistemics, which structurally appear above tense and aspect; (ii) with imperfective on a root modal: imperfective brings in an additional layer of modality, itself responsible for removing the necessity for an actual event. This proposal enables us to solve the puzzle while maintaining a standardized semantics for aspects and modals. (shrink)
Of late, evidentiality has received great attention in formal semantics. In this paper I develop ‘evidentiality-informed’ truth conditions for modal operators such as must and may . With language data drawn from Luoping Nase (a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the P.R. of China and belonging to the Yi Nationality), I illustrate that epistemic modals clash with clauses articulating first-hand information. I then demonstrate that existing models such as Kratzer’s graded possible-worlds semantics fail to provide accurate truth conditions for (...) class='Hi'>modals tagging clauses with first-hand information. As a remedy I propose a fuzzy version of possible-worlds semantics with various grades of belief and knowledge. In addition to preserving the expressive power of graded possible-worlds semantics, the fuzzy model will be shown to supply appropriate truth conditions for epistemic modals appended to evidential clauses (i.e. clauses expressing first-hand information). (shrink)
Invariantism proposed by Braun (Linguistics and Philosophy 35(6):461–489, 2012) aims to maintain full identity of semantic content between all uses of ‘might’. I invoke well-known facts regarding diachronic change in meanings of modals to argue that invariantism commits us to implausible duplication of familiar processes of lexical semantic change on the level of “lexical pragmatics”, with no obvious payoff.
We discuss the semantic significance of a puzzle concerning ‘ought’ and conditionals recently discussed by Kolodny and MacFarlane. We argue that the puzzle is problematic for the standard Kratzer-style analysis of modality. In Kratzer’s semantics, modals are evaluated relative to a pair of conversational backgrounds. We show that there is no sensible way of assigning values to these conversational backgrounds so as to derive all of the intuitions in Kolodny and MacFarlane’s case. We show that the appropriate verdicts can (...) be derived by extending Kratzer’s framework to feature a third conversational background and claiming that the relevant reading of ‘ought’ is sensitive to this parameter. (shrink)
The article argues for a parallelism between the interpretation of deontic modals and the interpretation of counterfactuals. The main claim is that dependencies between facts play a role in the resolution of both types of modality: in both cases, facts ‘stand and fall’ together. The article provides two types of evidence supporting this claim: (i) evidence that comes from the interaction between primary and secondary duties (as presented in contrary-to-duty imperatives) and (ii) evidence that comes from the possibility of (...) reproducing well-known counterfactual puzzles in the domain of deontic statements. The article argues that the semantics of deontic modals needs to be stated in a way that pays attention to dependencies between facts and illustrates this with a proposal building on work on counterfactuals by Kratzer and Veltman. (shrink)
According to Etchemendy, in attempting to offer an analysis of the modal features of the intuitive concept of logical consequence, Tarski has committed a modal fallacy. In this paper, I consider the thesis according to it is posible to analyze the modals properties of concept of logical consequence through of a generalization on set-theoretical interpretations. As is known, some philosophers have tried to argue for the transit from the general to the modal by showing that there are enough settheoretic (...) interpretations so as to be able to represent the modal features of the intuitive concept of consequence. As is also known, those people have encountered a lot of difficulties. In the present paper, I will try to show that those problems are related not with the specific possibility of accounting for the modal features by means of a set-theoretic notion of model but with the possibility of coming up with a precise mathematical theory for the concept of interpretation, and, as such, they can be solved by way of appealing to the usual solutions to this problem. (shrink)
This paper considers some questions related to the determination of epistemic modal domains. Specifically, given situations in which groups of agents have epistemic states that bear on a modal domain, how is the domain best restricted? This is a metasemantic project, in which I combine a standard semantics for epistemic modals, as developed by Kratzer, with a standard story about conversational dynamics, as developed by Stalnaker. I show how a standard framework for epistemic logic can model their interaction. I (...) contend that if groups have epistemic states that bear on the modal domain, as the data suggests, then careful attention must be paid to the method of combination selected for the epistemic states of the individuals within the group. Specifically, there should be some explanation of the flow of information in a group-deliberative setting. Through this study we find a novel explanation of modal disagreement and uptake. (shrink)
Crosslinguistically, the same modal words can be used to express a wide range of interpretations. This crosslinguistic trend supports a Kratzerian analysis, where each modal has a core lexical entry and where the difference between an epistemic and a root interpretation is contextually determined. A long-standing problem for such a unified account is the equally robust crosslinguistic correlation between a modal’s interpretation and its syntactic behavior: epistemics scope high (in particular higher than tense and aspect) and roots low, a fact (...) which has led to proposals that hardwire different syntactic positions for epistemics and roots (cf. Cinque’s hierarchy). This paper argues that the range of interpretations a modal receives is even more restricted: a modal must be keyed to certain time-individual pairs, but not others. I show that this can be captured straightforwardly by minimally modifying the Kratzerian account: modals are relative to an event—rather than a world—of evaluation, which readily provides a time (the event’s running time) and (an) individual(s) (the event’s participants). I propose that this event relativity of modals can in turn explain the correlation between type of interpretation and syntactic position, without stipulation of an interpretation-specific height for modals. (shrink)
Next SectionIn this remark, I first show that a Lewis–Kratzer–von Fintel style semantics of conditionals and modals (Lewis 1973; Kratzer 1991a, b; von Fintel 1994; a.o.) together with the downward-entailing-based (DE-based) approach to the licensing of negative polarity items (NPIs) incorrectly predicts that NPIs are ungrammatical in the if-clause of a conditional with a possibility modal in the main clause (i.e., a conditional of the form if p, ◊q; henceforth, CPM; e.g., If John has ever been to Paris, he (...) might become a good chef). I then list three possible solutions to this problem to be explored in future work. (shrink)
The paper considers the role of modality in the rational reconstruction of standpoints and arguments. The paper examines in what conditions modal markers can act as argumentative indicators and what kind of cues they provide for the reconstruction of argument. The paper critically re-examines Toulmin’s hypothesis that the meaning of the modals can be analyzed in terms of a field-invariant argumentative force and field-dependent criteria in the light of the Theory of Relative Modality developed within linguistic semantics, showing how (...) this theory can provide a more adequate model for exploiting the modals as indicators. The resulting picture confirms Toulmin’s intuition only in part: on the one hand the modals are always relational in nature and dependent on a contextual conversational background of propositions; on the other hand only epistemic-doxastic modals directly express a speech-act level inferential relation between a set of premises and a standpoint. Other modalities express relations (e.g. causal or final relations) better seen as part of the content of the argument whose argumentative relevance depends on the argumentation scheme employed. Thus non-epistemic modals function as argumentative indicators only indirectly. (shrink)